House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Democrats not to dwell on investigating President Donald Trump once they assume the majority next year because “America is too great of a nation to have such a small agenda.”
“I think there’s other problems out there we really should be focused upon. My belief is let’s see where we can work together and move America forward,” McCarthy, the No. 2 Republican in the House, behind House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Monday during an appearance on Fox News.
“We’ve investigated this for a long period of time,” McCarthy added. “Both sides have come up with nothing in the process. I think we should put the American people first.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team hasn’t exactly produced “nothing” in its time investigating Russian interference during the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. They’ve indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 33 people and three companies so far — the latest being Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Upon taking charge of House committees in January, Democrats are also expected to launch investigations into some of the biggest Trump controversies Republicans have downplayed or ignored over the last two years: the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, allegations of obstruction of justice, the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and hush money payments to two women who claim they had affairs with the president.
In a memo filed last week, federal prosecutors alleged for the first time that Cohen broke campaign finance laws by making payments to the women to keep them silent during the campaign “in coordination with and at the direction of Trump.” The revelations from Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York sparked fresh speculation over the weekend about a possible indictment of Trump or perhaps even impeachment.
McCarthy downplayed the matter in the Fox News interview, however, arguing that “lots of members” of Congress have engaged in similar violations of campaign finance law.
McCarthy had a seemingly different view of the House’s oversight responsibilities in 2016 when he boasted on national television that the House Select Committee on Benghazi had hurt then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the polls. Republicans set up the panel, as well as several other lengthy investigations, to investigate the deadly 2012 attack on the Libya consulate in Benghazi when Clinton was secretary of state. McCarthy’s remark was seen as a damaging gaffe that even his fellow Republicans were forced to distance themselves from.
Democrats walloped Republicans in November’s midterm election ― flipping an impressive 40 House seats ― in part by telling voters they would serve as a check on Trump’s volatile presidency. But most candidates spent a majority of time talking about bread-and-butter issues, such as health care and jobs, not the seemingly endless controversies in Washington.
“Democrats have been clear for months that our top priorities will be lowering the cost of prescription drugs, raising wages by rebuilding America and restoring integrity in Washington. The minority leader is well aware of this agenda, as it was used quite effectively to topple his Republican majority,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Rep. Eric Swalwell, another California Democrat who has been discussed as a potential 2020 presidential contender, offered a more blunt response to McCarthy on Twitter.
Other top Republicans have also urged Democrats not to focus on investigating the president and his associates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, said last month that moving to aggressively pursue oversight of Trump and his administration would amount to “presidential harassment.”